Rancid have never much cared what anyone thinks. Since they formed in Berkeley, California, in 1991, they've followed their own path to creative expression. While their peers played ripping, melodic punk-pop, Rancid wrote less trendy tunes influenced by the Clash. And when Green Day and the Offspring signed with major labels, Rancid kept things resolutely indie.
Then, out of the blue, the band signed a distribution deal with Warner Bros. Records for its new album, Indestructible. And in a move that could be considered even more blasphemous by longtime fans, frontman Tim Armstrong recently hooked up with multiplatinum pop star Pink to co-write nine songs for her upcoming LP, Try This, which comes out November 11. Is this the last act of hypocrisy from a band that used to have strict DIY standards? Hardly. It's really just another example of Armstrong doing things no one expects, and doing them his way.
"All I know is that if people are gonna give me sh-- for working with the best woman vocalist in the world right now, then let them give me sh--," he said defiantly. "Pink is the sh--, and working with her has been all positive."
In June, Pink performed with Armstrong's side project the Transplants in Los Angeles at the KROQ Weenie Roast and then briefly toured with the band. She handpicked him to co-write with her on Try This, which also features other members of Rancid and Blink-182/ Transplants drummer Travis Barker (see "Pink Didn't Have To Try Too Hard To Make Try This").
The writing sessions for the album were casual, but surprisingly productive. Armstrong wrote 10 songs with Pink in a mere two weeks, and found that his ragged punk aesthetic perfectly complemented her style. "We could just sit down and my voice would be all f---ed up, and she would sing like an angel," Armstrong gushed. "She can stack, like, five harmonies real quick. She's a very talented singer and a very talented lyricist."
Armstrong's friendship with Pink was just as tight as his working partnership with her. The minute they met, he said, he felt like he'd know her for 10 years. "I was like, 'Yo, this is my homegirl. If I grew up with you, I'd roll with you. You'd be my girl.' She's like my sister. I'd do anything for her, man. I love her so much."
Before Rancid return to the road on November 5 in Davis, California, to support Indestructible, Armstrong will get together with No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani for a songwriting session for her first solo album (see "Gwen Stefani Works On Solo LP With Outkast, Missy Elliott").
"She's super talented and I've known her a while," Armstrong said. "She's very cool and her husband [Gavin Rossdale] is very cool, too. But her and Pink are different. I can't compare one to the other. They're just different and I'm kinda happy being able to work with both of them."
—Jon Wiederhorn, with reporting by Iann Robinson and Meridith Gottlieb